By Rob Gray
AMES — Turns out rumors of Iowa State forward Georges’ Niang’s lack of hops are just that.
The 6-7 sophomore can indeed get up — as he nimbly demonstrated during the first half of Saturday’s 70-64 win over Texas Tech by leaping over a line of courtside chairs after scrambling for a loose ball.
“Y’all didn’t know I had that, huh?” Niang said.
Few did — including his coach.
“The hurdle was impressive, though,” said Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, who saw Niang re-enact his closer’s role Saturday as he scored eight of ISU’s final 13 points. “In fact (official John) Higgins looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know he could do that.’ I said I didn’t either.”
There’s very little Niang doesn’t have in terms of game.
Niang’s smooth interior moves and slick spins and scoops make him a defender’s nightmare.
He’s been Mr. Steady since going 4 of 20 from the field — and 0 of 9 from 3-point range — on Jan. 13 in the 77-70 home loss to Kansas.
Niang’s statistical averages in eight games since: 18.6 points per game, 54.6 percent field goal shooting, 48.7 percent 3-point accuracy, and 4.2 assists.
He scored 17 points Saturday and leads the Cyclones (19-5, 7-5 Big 12) with 15 efforts of 10-19 points this season.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Niang said of the Red Raiders (13-12, 5-7), which saw a three-game win streak snapped. “To get a win against them at home, we’re going to take it.”
Tech has been in virtually every conference game this season.
ISU dealt it its worst Big 12 loss, 73-62, last month in Lubbock.
“They’re explosive,” said ISU guard DeAndre Kane, who had 17 points nine assists and eight rebounds. “They can score in a hurry.”
So can Niang, regardless of how much — or how often — he elevates.
As for Saturday’s high-flying display, it didn’t come without potential complications.
“I was nervous as ever,” Niang said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it over for a second. I’m glad the lady moved so I didn’t nick her a little bit. It would have got ugly if she didn’t move, that’s for sure.”
KANE CUISINE: Kane’s mom, Carol Robinson, was on hand Saturday to see him play for the second time at Hilton Coliseum.
He waved to her in the stands before the post-game TV interview.
Other post-game plans?
Dinner — a down-home dinner.
“She likes gizzards,” Kane said.
FOUL TROUBLE MANAGER: ISU’s Melvin Ejim picked up his fourth foul with 9:39 left but may have made the defensive play of the game when he avoided his fifth while drawing a charge from Tech’s Jaye Crockett with 35 seconds left. The Cyclones led 67-64 at the time.
“Melvin, he’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am,” Hoiberg said. “He gets better grades than I ever got and he’s not going to pick up a stupid one for his fifth. So give Melvin credit for playing a lot of minutes. He did the same thing at Okie State, playing three overtimes with four fouls.”
Ejim also moved up to 15th on ISU’s career scoring list. He has 1,453 points, seven more than 16th-place Ron Harris, who played from 1981-84.
UP NEXT: The Cyclones play host to Texas at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The No. 19 Longhorns (20-5, 9-3) are in second place in the Big 12 standings, one game back of Kansas. ISU hopes to avenge an 86-76 loss Jan. 18 at Austin.
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